There is often some concern about how appropriate it is to involve children, especially babies, in the types of activities that constitute activism. Activism is a positive life experience for kids. It makes them aware that there are bigger issues in the world than whether or not they got the doll or the Lego set that they wanted at Target yesterday. It teaches them that it is important to speak up, and that there are vehicles for letting the powers-that-be know what is important to you. And that it is possible to be a part of generating positive change in the world.
Activism provides a good opportunity for children to spend time with people that they may not always be exposed to- generally positive, energetic people who feel the same way you do about important topics. People who feel like they can help make a difference. People who do make a difference.
Babies and children are often some of our best assets when it comes to influencing change. When asked about the relative success of the birth activist groups who are often up against large organizations who can afford expensive lobbyists, such as the American Medical Association, legislators have been known to say, “It was the babies! How can you vote against a bunch of babies?” Babies lighten the mood, and a decently behaved child often declaws the opposition and allows calmer dialogue. Besides, what politician would miss a photo op with a baby?
As a mama who has already raised one set of humans (who are now 26, 22 and 19), I can tell you that I firmly believe that dragging my children to events that brought awareness to important issues has made them better, kinder people. Yes, my children would roll their eyes. And yes, they would often hang WAY back. But they were there, and they were watching. And frankly, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, my choices were to bring them, or not participate. And in my mind, the latter wasn’t an option.
These days, I am dragging my 9 yr old daughter and my 5 year old grandson to events. They aren’t rolling their eyes yet, but at the rate that my nine year old is growing up, I am expecting it any day now. That’s OK. Just like the good foods I try to feed them, I know that it will make them better, stronger people.
Practical tips for making activism positive for all:
Ask about how welcome children are, but don’t necessarily take your first no for an answer. Sometime when a public official says children aren’t welcome, what they mean is, “I wouldn’t bring my kids.” Ask for a supervisor. And their supervisor.
Pack snacks and water.
Pack an activity bag.
Pack an umbrella for sun or rain.
Try to go with friends.
If your baby is crying constantly with teething, going through the worst terrible two stage EVER, or is a four year old who is strongly testing his boundaries, maybe this brief season is not optimal for you to be trying to speak you mind in public. But this too shall pass, so please, re-join the fray as soon as you can.